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Tara Tighe Wins Appeal in Maryland Court of Special Appeals Over Meaning of “Prevailing Party” Status for Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees and Costs


On August 17, 2022, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland ruled in favor of Schertler Onorato Mead & Sears’s client in a case involving “prevailing party” status under Maryland law. Of Counsel Tara N. Tighe briefed and argued the case. The appeal followed a ruling by a Maryland county circuit court that the firm’s client could not receive attorneys’ fees and costs under a contractual fee-shifting provision even after it successfully prevented the plaintiff from obtaining any relief in the underlying lawsuit. The circuit court interpreted a Maryland procedural rule to mean that a party can only prevail after a trial on the merits. On appeal, Ms. Tighe successfully argued that this interpretation of the procedural rule was error and would create an untenable standard that would promote gamesmanship and unnecessary litigation. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland agreed and remanded the case for further proceedings to determine whether the firm’s client prevailed and, if so, what fees and costs should be awarded. The decision made clear that recently enacted Maryland procedural rules do not supersede Maryland case law or limit a court’s authority to award attorney’s fees under longstanding precedent holding that a party prevails whenever it achieves its goal in the litigation.

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